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img_3768(By the way, the picture is from a PebbleStorm Treasure Map Hike on Sunday in LA…hence the eyepatch!).

Below is an excerpt from an email I sent to the PebbleStorm group going through the “Come Play With Us” program.  I’m posting it for two reasons: to practice non-perfectionism (is that a word?), and to declare that I’m on a kick to let go of perfectionism, which is an  Enjoyment Enemy. Besides creating unneeded pressure, it just gets in the way of progress.  Ever heard the term “perfection is procrastination”?

“Perfectionism spells paralysis.”
— Winston Churchill

I, we, can’t be enjoying ourselves fully if we’re worrying about things being ‘perfect’.  How often does being perfect get in your way, either in life or work?

I’ve let go of a lot of perfectionism over the past couple of years (my father might say I never had it, after so many years of seeing messy rooms 🙂 ).  I didn’t even see it until recently, when I started helping people overcome their own perfectionism, both the progress that I’d made and how much farther I have to go.

When you’re in your own room for a long time, you get used to the dirt. Also, when your room is really dirty, a little more dirt doesn’t show up.  You see things in a new light when you visit a neighbor’s room. And when you leave your neighbor’s room, you carry a new perspective with you back to your room.  Seeing others’ perfectionism has made me more aware of my own, and how it gets in the way of enjoyment. It’s a new smudge to be aware of and let go of.  My room’s getting cleaner, so smaller smudges become much more obvious.  Of course, the room never(?) gets perfectly clean… there’s always another smudge to clean…

Hey, there’s a perfectionism lesson even here, in that we, to be happy, have to be accepting of having smudges, even as we work to clean them up!  ‘Cuz they’ll never completely go away.

Before I move on, here are a couple of ways I manage my perfectionism…throwing rocks, as I described in “Using rocks & babysteps to dodge the fear“, and “bursting” as I wrote about in the “Big Aaron Update…Bursting…

[UPDATED] When perfectionism can be useful

Like anything in life, perfectionism can be helpful or hurtful, depending on your relationship with it.  When it prevents you from getting started or from finishing things, it’s an enemy!  When it can help you complete a project in a way that delivers an amazing experience, it can actually be a friend.  The key is noticing how it affects you, so that you can avoid getting trapped by it and instead can use it to help you with your goals.

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Hi everyone!

1) Teams Update
[yadda yadda yadda…]

2) Some great enhancement ideas from my 8p call tonight  (Thank you Jim Belden, Onna and Erin Halling!!):
i. A 1 day game” babystep.
Erin Halling had a great idea to make it simpler to practice the “Play” concepts!  The example she used was to create a game out of moving, in which she’d win by finishing moving by a certain time, and an example rule would be having to stop to jump around and be silly every 2 hours 🙂  More to come…
Reminder  – have fun with thinking of games, there is no reason to be ‘perfect’ here. Perfect is NOT fun – messy is fun!

ii. A Serendipity Board that lists the games and players, as they’re created. Thank you Onna!!!  Here’s an example from a local open house event we held last year:
http://pebblestorm.com/2008/09/08/a-serendipity-board/

iii. A “Design Your Game” template,
that will be created as I work with the first few people in creating some games.  Thank you Onna!!!

iv. A “Meet Your PebbleStormers” call on the Wednesday between webinars, to give a chance for people who want to meet and connect with more people to do so (anyone have suggestions for icebreakers?).  Thank you Erin!!

3) Lastly  – I’m asking for help (and will continue to)
Whew!  By the way – I can see that there’s no way I’ll be able to create all this, and the other ideas that will come up, by myself (I can’t do it all myself – mental note).  Anyone interested in helping me with any particular pebble(s), in addition to Erin and Onna?   Or ones you might think of but I don’t have here?  You know it’d be fun to do together!!

My own perfectionism & ego
I have a hard time asking for help, which is related to both own perfectionism and ego (I don’t like looking bad as much as the next person).  I’m going to keep letting this go, and will appreciate your support in doing it!   Perfectionism is one of the worst enemies of PebbleStorm and enjoyment, and one I’m going to be paying attention to in myself, so that I can help others avoid it too.

🙂

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5 Responses to “Perfectionism – an Enjoyment Enemy”

  1. George Kao Says:

    Great post, Aaron! Thank you for sharing authentically. You always do.

    I resonate and deal with perfectionism too, especially when it comes to writing, even comments to blog posts like the one I’m writing now!

    I find that when time is short, or if I just give myself a short time limit to write something, it tends to be more authentic and I’m able to write better than I would’ve thought. For example, giving myself only 5 minutes to write something turns out better quality ideas/writing than any 5-minute snapshot during a 1-hour writing session!

    or sometimes just writing everything in lower case, even in emails, helps me rid the perfectionism since the punctuation’s already imperfect 🙂

    …sometimes writing in all lower-case helps my reader get rid of their perfectionism too, and may get me a response more promptly, or more authentically.

    anyway, thank you for sharing!

    aaronross383 Reply:

    @George Kao, I agree, sometimes my best stuff has come in short bursts (after I first let ideas simmer for awhile). Both Project 2057 and the PebbleStorm Mission are two examples, where I wrote them in minutes, and haven’t had to change them much even after two years.

    Thanks for the great comment and sharing yourself!

  2. Rosemarie Barker Says:

    Tonight on the Lehrer News Hour he quoted Obama as saying, “We must not let perfectionism slow progress.”

    I wonder where Obama’s speech writer got those words.”

  3. SeanG Says:

    This is a great post — thanks!

    My perfectionism even (especially?) extends to my leisure time: I constantly think “This [video game / book / etc.] isn’t as good as I want it to be. I should do something else. And until I find out what that better thing is, I can’t enjoy this.”

    Have you ever had to deal with that? Do you have any advice?

    Thanks!

    aaronross383 Reply:

    @SeanG,

    It’s great that you see this in yourself already. Once you’re aware of something you don’t like, you can change it.

    I’m still working on this same issue, but I’ve made a lot of progress in the past couple of years. Meditation and writing have been really helpful.

    Did you see this post on my morning personal success routine, with some relevant links?
    http://pebblestorm.com/2009/11/11/my-morning-personal-success-routine

    I started meditating about two years ago, just a few minutes at a time every other day. Now I’m doing twice a day (usually), and thirty minutes a session.

    The better you can get at stilling your mind, the easier it is to get clarity on what you want from life, and what makes you happy.

    The writing is also helpful, both as a way to practice self awareness and to have an outlet for the little demons running around it mine 🙂

    Aaron

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